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Obama vigorously defends foreign policy record

MANILA — President Obama vigorously defended his foreign policy record Monday, arguing that his cautious approach to global problems has avoided the type of missteps that contributed to a ‘‘disastrous’’ decade of war for the United States.

Obama’s expansive comments came at the end of a weeklong Asia trip that exposed growing White House frustration with critics who cast the president as weak and ineffectual on the world stage.

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The president and his advisers get particularly irked by those who seize on Obama’s decision to pull back from a military strike in Syria and link it with virtually every other foreign policy challenge, from Russia’s threatening moves in Ukraine to China’s increasing assertiveness in Asia’s territorial disputes.

‘‘Why is it that everybody is so eager to use military force after we’ve just gone through a decade of war at enormous costs to our troops and to our budget?’’ Obama said during a news conference in the Philippines.

Summing up his foreign policy philosophy, Obama said it was one that ‘‘avoids errors.’’

White House advisers argue in part that Obama’s approach puts him on the side of a conflict-weary American public, some of whom voted for him in the 2008 election because of his early opposition to the Iraq war. Yet the president’s foreign policy record of late has provided plenty of fodder for his critics.

It was Obama’s own declaration that Syria’s chemical weapons use would cross his ‘‘red line’’ that raised the stakes for a US response when Syrian leader Bashar Assad launched an attack last summer.

The Obama administration’s own drumbeat toward a US strike only fueled the narrative that the president was indecisive or did not have the stomach for an attack when he abruptly pulled back, first in favor of a vote in Congress, then to strike a deal with Syria and Russia that aimed to rid the Assad regime of its chemical weapons stockpiles.

The Syria scenario has trickled into Obama’s relationship with Asia, where anxious allies spent much of the last week seeking assurances from the president that he would have their back if China used military force to take the advantage in the region’s numerous territorial disputes.

And Russian President Vladimir Putin’s flouting of Western sanctions in response to his alleged provocations in Ukraine has stirred fresh criticism that the president’s strategy lacks teeth.

That line of thinking was evident Monday after the Obama administration announced new sanctions on seven Russian officials, as well 17 companies with ties to Putin.

Senator Kelly Ayotte, a New Hampshire Republican who has been a frequent Obama foreign policy critic, called the measures “tepid,” “incremental,” and “insufficient.” Other GOP lawmakers have called on Obama to provide lethal assistance to the Ukrainian military, a prospect he roundly rejected once again Monday.

‘‘Do people actually think that somehow us sending some additional arms into Ukraine could potentially deter the Russian army?’’ Obama said. ‘‘Or are we more likely to deter them by applying the sort of international pressure, diplomatic pressure, and economic pressure that we’re applying?’’

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